Adventure By Lisa Kahan

The Stunning Splendors of South America

No one warns you about South America. That this is a continent so spectacular and awe- inspiring, so filled with wonder, that it isn’t a place you only visit once—South America is a destination worthy of a lifetime’s obsession. 

While the bright lights of the big cities might steal the limelight, South America’s natural wonders are the true spectacle. From the breathtaking beauty of Perito Moreno Glacier to the mind-boggling depth of Colca Canyon, the blinding white of the Uyuni Salt Flats to the dazzling star-filled sky of the Atacama Desert, South America is a continent literally bursting at the seams with majestic sights. Be forewarned, you’ll want to return for more. 

The Atacama Desert

As the sun sets in the Atacama Desert, the beauty of the universe slowly begins to reveal itself. The gentle swish of the Milky Way, the red glow of Mars, infinite stars twinkling with an unimaginable intensity. Texas isn’t the only place where the stars shine bright; this high plateau in northern Chile is a stargazer’s paradise. Telescopes are not needed to appreciate the view, but the Atacama is home to multiple world-class observatories, several of which are open to the public. 

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By day, the scorched rust-colored landscape resembles the surface of the moon. So much so, NASA uses the rocky terrain to test Mars rovers. At the eastern edge of this, the world’s driest desert, stands the majestic Licancabur volcano, towering over the surrounding landscape at an extraordinary 19,409 feet high. The eerily beautiful Atacama holds other surprises as well—steaming fields of ancient geysers, fantastic sandstone ridges and massive sand dunes perfect for sandboarding are all here for exploration and adventure. That is, if you haven’t stayed up all night staring at the stars. 

Perito Moreno Glacier

The sound is unmistakable, loud and sharp, like a gun shot. What happens next is one of the most exhilarating sights imaginable, as several tons of turquoise-colored ice crash into the freezing waters of Lake Argentino. This is Perito Moreno, a spectacular 19-mile-long glacier that is the crowning glory of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. This majestic glacier, one of the few in the world that is still growing, is set in stunning Patagonian scenery. For an unforgettable experience and breathtaking views, don a pair of crampons for a trek across the ice. 

Salar de Uyuni

The greatest nothingness imaginable—that’s what it feels like to stand on the edge of Salar de Uyuni. Blindingly white and incredibly surreal, this austere landscape high in the Bolivian Andes is the world’s largest salt flat—an unfathomable 3,800-square-mile expanse of pure white. The remains of a prehistoric lake bed, this is an otherworldly terrain where the only sound is the thick layer of salt crunching underfoot.

In the spring, when the land is covered in a few inches of water, the Uyuni transforms into a gigantic reflective pool, offering a picture-perfect mirror image of the sky above. This illusion of an endless horizon makes for one of the most remarkable vistas in the world, at times made even more jaw-dropping by the presence of thousands of pink flamingoes who come here to breed for a few months each year. 

Mighty Iguazu Falls

You feel the immense power in your bones, a quivering only heightened by the almost deafening roar of the water. Standing in front of Iguazu Falls is a visceral experience unlike any other. Your whole body is taken in as the cool mist slowly soaks your clothes and your eyes struggle to comprehend the magnitude of what’s unfolding in front of you. Here, set between Argentina and Brazil, is one of the world’s greatest wonders: a series of over 275 magnificent waterfalls that stretch for almost two miles through the lush Atlantic Forest. Eleanor Roosevelt was right when, in 1944, she stood atop the cliffs and sighed with pity: “Poor Niagara.” 

Peru’s Colca Canyon

To stand on the edge of Colca Canyon, a two-hour drive from Arequipa, Peru, is to be transfixed by an overwhelming awe. Early morning is the best time to visit, when the golden light creeps across the mountains and into the valleys, slowly bringing the full depth of the chasm into view. Giant Andean condors soar overhead as your mind struggles to comprehend Colca’s magnitude—11,000 feet deep, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. A feeling of reverence is an appropriate reaction, only compounded by the glorious snow-capped mountains that complete the magnificent view.




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